Are there 45 Mozart symphonies? Is he writing any more?

Are there 45 Mozart symphonies? Is he writing any more?


norman lebrecht

October 14, 2013

That’s how they count them in Denmark. We’re stuck here on 41. Read on…


For seven years, the Austro-Hungarian conductor Adam Fischer has been working with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra, performing and recording the sym­phonies of W.A. Mozart in Copenhagen. This autumn, the project concludes with the release of a new CD box set of all 12 CDs with 45 symphonies, including eight unnumbered works from the composer’s youth. Fischer and his Danish players will bring the new box set to their concerts at the Wiener Konzerthaus and will celebrate the release with a reception on 15 October prior to two concerts on 16 and 17 October. 


Time and space for marvellous Mozart

Since 1998 Adam Fischer has been the chief conductor of the Danish National Chamber Orchestra. The orchestra’s calm Scandinavian pace of life has given the famous conductor a necessary counterbalance to his busy concert and touring schedule around the world: in Copenhagen Fischer is able to work in depth, which remains a high priority for the conductor. The combination of Adam Fischer and the 42 Danish musicians means time and space to think, to develop powerful ideas and to focus on even the smallest details of the music.


A “Danish” MozartIn the Nordic countries, Mozart has always been part of good taste, and in Den­mark in particular the nurturing of the classical concert repertoire has proud traditions. In 1811, the composer’s widow Constanze Mozart reported from Copen­hagen: “Mozart’s works are nowhere better performed than in this capital, when it comes to the orchestra.” Mrs. Mozart was speaking of the Royal Danish Orchestra, which was the capital’s only symphony orchestra at the time. Today, however, there is no doubt that the Danish National Chamber Orchestra – founded in 1937 – has been re-defining itself over recent decades and has developed into one of Europe’s leading ensembles for the Viennese repertoire. 


  • David Boxwell says:

    That’s still less than half of Haydn’s (whose symphonies were, as a total body of work, even better).

  • Michael Schaffer says:

    Mozart may have written as many as 60 or so symphonies, but some are lost and some are of dubious authenticity. In addition to that, it’s not always clear what should or should not be counted as a “symphony”. At the time, overtures were still often referred to as “sinfonia” (especially in Italy where that convention lasted until Verdi’s time) and it was not uncommon for composers (including Mozart) to take an opera sinfonia and add one or two movements to make a new symphony in the sense of a work intended for concert performance.

    “…the Austro-Hungarian conductor Adam Fischer…”

    BTW, the Austro-Hungarian Empire ended in 1918. Sorry you had to hear it from me!


    • Reminds me of when Otto von Habsburg died in 2011 and one of the obits mentioned the time when he was informed that Austria and Hungary were playing a football match one evening: ‘Oh, who are we playing?’ he remarked, impishly.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        It’s just Otto Habsburg these days. Austria abolished nobility in 1919 and with it the “von” and “zu” and other nobility prefixes in names. Unlike in Germany where nobility was also abolished but you can keep the “von” in your name, but it’s just a traditional element in the name, it doesn’t mean anything anymore.

  • At present, I am working on three new symphonies by Mozart, in D, D# and F# Phrygian respectively. The works are due to be completed sometime before the War of the Spanish Succession, but not after the moon landing. If you would like to contribute to their composition, please put two unused 300 Euro notes in an email and send them to my Nigerian address.

  • I suppose if we describe a composer as ‘prolific’ we shouldn’t assume he stops writing music just because he’s dead.

  • Tully Potter says:

    Well, Norman, actually we’re stuck on 40 symphonies, as No. 37 is by Michael Haydn, apart from its slow introduction added by Mozart.

  • sixtus says:

    At least four recorded “complete” Mozart symphony cycles have already ncluded several extra authentic works justifiably classified as symphonies: Pinnock, Mackerras, ter Linden, Hogwood. The canonical 41 (actually, 40) was exceeded a long time ago, certainly by the completion of the Neue Mozart Ausgabe — with no further assistance from Mozart or such posthumous amanuenses as Rosemary Brown.


  • Really, Mozart is like Elvis, neither of them have passed away so you can expect to see more from him (them) in a short future….

  • Kyle says:

    And I thought they were are decomposing…